17
May
2016

What’s Missing from Turnbull

While the Morgan Poll is not generally regarded as being the most accurate, its latest result gives Labor a potential winning lead with a TPP of 52.5 to 47.5% and Queensland being the only State where the LNP is leading. This is the largest lead since Turnbull was elected leader of the Coalition and it also has a 30.5% vote for minority parties. While it is too early to be definitive, this suggests that the electorate is not attracted by either major party and that neither will have control over the Senate.

It also suggests that if anything Turnbull has lost potential Coalition supporters even since he obtained a double dissolution. As a hitherto consistent Liberal voter, experienced conservatist journalist Tom Switzer wrote in yesterdays’ Sydney Morning Herald (see Switzer on Turnbull) that:

“What’s different about Turnbull is that he has not actually done anything to explain his rapid downhill trajectory. He is no Paul Keating or Campbell Newman, legislating unpopular big-bang reforms in the national interest or spending cuts to rein in budget deficits as far as the eye can see. Contradicting himself almost every week, Turnbull has stood fast in indecision. He has been consistently indecisive”.

A prime example is his failure to espouse a definitive national security policy, as indicated by Greg Sheridan in the article below. His early naïve venture into arguing that the terrorist threat from extremist Islamists has nothing to do with religion has been only very slightly modified and unlike Abbott he has not sought to push for an increased role for Australian troops in Iraq/Syria. Further, although the attempt by five Australian to travel by boat to Syria offered an opportunity to announce a further tightening of counter-terrorist laws, he has had nothing of substance to say about the extent of the obvious extremism involved. While he is also reputed to have a “flexible” view on the treatment of refugees, it seems that it is only because the bipartisan policy agreed with Shorten is under attack within the Labor Party that he has emerged in public support of not allowing refugees to cross our borders by boats.

Other policy problems with Turnbull’s own party include workplace relations where he has made only limited use of the Heydon Royal Commission and, despite supporting the passage of tougher regulatory legislation on (mainly) the construction industry which allowed him to have a double dissolution, he has not taken advantage of the obvious need for major reform of the whole field of regulatory legislation covering workplace relations. His record here is bad in that when Opposition Leader he refused to vote against the Gillard government’s union-favoured legislation. A not dissimilar attitude exists on climate change, where having accepted the mainly National’s view that to become PM he should not change what Abbott had done, he has made only very limited criticism of the extraordinary proposals by Labor let alone the Greens. As I have previously mentioned, the idea that renewable energy should provide 50% of energy by 2030 should be attacked on practical grounds as well as being not required.

It remains to be seen whether further polling will force Turnbull to adopt policies more consistent with the views of the conservative wing of the Coalition. A further deterioration along the lines of the Morgan Poll could well lead to an internal revolt unless that is done. A lot could happen to Coalition policies in the next six weeks, particularly if the budgetary analysis by Treasury/Finance in ten days time reveals an opportunity for the Coalition to exploit the outlook provided by Labor’s future budgets and their composition (assuming sufficient data is provided by it). Instead of reviewing Backpacker’s licences (as announced today) Turnbull needs to announce that (for example) in government he will review (or better still) reduce the regulation of workplace relations ie as Switzer suggested, he needs some intended big-bang reforms.

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